What’s that? Another restaurant has opened in Miami? With high prices? Prime hours blocked on OpenTable? Packed at all hours? So? What else is new? Sounds just like another day in South Florida. Restaurateurs, chefs, investors and everyone in between continue flocking south, trying to sway their way into our hearts and stay for the long-haul. Ha! If it was only that simple. Curious and hungry (as usual), I made a reservation and have now visited several times. Spoiler alert: I can say I am officially swayed and impressed.
Chef-owner Fabio Trabocchi’s contemporary Italian cuisine restaurant portfolio boasts four restaurants in Washington D.C.: Sfoglina Pasta House, Del Mar, (one Michelin-starred) Fiola and Fiola Mare. The next Fiola is set to open this spring in Venice, Italy. Mamma mia! Despite Trabocchi’s solid success up north, I worried quality wouldn’t translate the same once the prep and debut period ended. And to be honest, also because Miami. I love us (weird headlines and all), but there is no doubt our dining scene is a tough coconut to crack. While fine dining might not be for everyone, one has to appreciate that restaurants such as these when planned and executed correctly are an essential part of having a multi-faceted, well-rounded food scene. Fiola has remained consistent and surpassed all of my high expectations. Whatever recruiting and training method they’ve used should be patented and modeled for other Magic City newcomers in the same category and beyond.
The magnificent interiors of this Coral Gables hot spot, designed by architect Jeffrey Beers and decorated by Lazaro Rosa Violan, favor mostly subdued tones with floral prints and accents scattered throughout. Glass, wood, iron, velvet, and leather textures along with the vast ceiling and white tablecloths monumentally come together creating interest and adding much cachet.
Don’t expect a stuffy environment where whispering is encouraged. The vibe, electric and contagious (y muy Miami), repeatedly worked despite the varied nature of each of my visits (romantic wine-heavy dinner for two, fun gal’s night out for four at the bar, three-hour intense dinner for six).
I cringed when the hostess sat me next to a party of 22 (where a wildly popular Univision celebrity held court) during my first visit. Surprisingly, any worries I had of my food being forgotten or set aside quickly dissipated when I couldn’t help but focus on the excellent food and service. What large party? An actor and multi-Latin Grammy-winner sat next to our party during my last visit. Again, equal attention was given to all regardless of how despacito I thought service would be. Fiola’s impeccably-dressed army professionally tended to every diner need with a graceful dance choreographed and inspired by old school hospitality. Water remained topped before I even noticed an empty glass. Wine glasses appeared full as needed and a wine list presented at the perfect moment when not. The sommeliers, knowledgeable, qualified, and passionate, expertly poured and endlessly conversed on the topic (my kind of people). Questions and requests were answered promptly by all and with a smile, every time.
The food. Oh. The. Food. Said to be inspired by regional Italian classic dishes, and family traditions, Fiola’s menu is divided into an Amalfi Coast raw bar, appetizers, pastas, sea & land options, wood oven & simply grilled fare, to share family-style selections, sides, and dessert. Courses during each dinner arrived all at once at a perfect pace. Tableside presentations and explanations flowed easily. Each highly-curated plate, tray, bowl, and platter showcased the courses at their best: stunning to look at and even better to taste.
What I’ve tried:
The signature Porcini Mushroom “Cappuccino” Soup ( sheep’s milk, ricotta pansotti, and Parmegiano foam). Delicate layers of cream, foam, and meaty textures compliment the balanced woodsy and nutty flavors. The perfect opener.
My pasta favorites keep changing with each dinner. First I thought the Beef Short Rib Agnolotti (beech mushrooms, brasato sauce, and toasted Alba hazelnuts) won best in show, then the Lobster Ravioli (ginger and chives) ruled all, but then the Squid Ink Bucatini (red king prawns, sea urchin, and Spanish Piment d’ Espelette) happened, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
The Prosciutto Wrapped Veal Chop (with ossobuco sauce, foie gras, gremolata, and alba hazelnuts) stood out as well. Please hold. I need a momentary pause to remember it again now before I continue typing. Oh my, and exhale.
Forget the D.C. Michelin star. Forget the star-studded dining room. The food and service at FIOLA Miami are worthy of our praise and the real stars that matter.
Other things to know:
- If you can find it, street parking is available. Valet parking is offered for $7.
- No corkage fee for outside wine offered.
- Bar seating is first come, first serve.
1500 San Ignacio Ave
Coral Gables, FL 33146